Sunday, 29 December 2013
Sadly, painter and collector Barbara (Reis) Poe Levee has died at the age of 91, in the autumn of 2013. I will post Barbara Poe Levee's biography to coincide with her birthday, in March 2014.
I'd be pleased to hear from anyone who knew Barbara or can tell me anything about her paintings, as I have never seen any of them. Anyone with information can email me - firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment below. Thank you.
Saturday, 28 December 2013
In 2013 I've posted biographies of 25 out of the 31 Women. These have included luminaries such as Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington, the unlikely including Gipsy Rose Lee and the unknown with Gretchen Corazzo and Anne Harvey.
For anyone who has missed the point of the selection, the 31 Women all exhibited their work seventy years ago, at an exhibition in January 1943 at the Art of This Century Gallery in New York. This was the first exhibition dedicated to women artists of the avant-garde. The gallery itself was owned and run by Peggy Guggenheim who, though not an artist herself, was probably the most important one of a group of far-sighted women who collected and promoted modern art during the twentieth century. These included Betty Parsons, Louise Dryer and Aline Meyer Liebman, who was also one of the 31 Women.
The most popular of my posts seem to be the following:-
1 Gypsy Rose Lee - She was the first I posted but still... not all the interest is in her artworks!
2 Leonora Carrington - I'm trying to promote Leonora as a British artist, she's woefully under-represented in the UK.
3 Sonja Sekula - Surprisingly popular considering Sonja's obscurity, although her work is lovely.
4 Xenia Cage - Not so surprised about Xenia, considering the interest in John Cage.
5 Frida Kahlo - I'm just surprised that dear Frida is only number five!
My research is almost complete, so there are only another six artists whose biographies will appear here, hopefully to coincide with their birthdays.
Look out for Esphyr Slobodkina, Leonor Fini, Maria Elena Vieira da Silva, Louise Nevelson, Aline Meyer Liebman and Barbara Poe Levee (formerly Barbara Reis).
I hope soon to turn this research into an actual book.
My request for help surrounds the last two artists, Aline Meyer Liebman and Barbara Poe Levee. I don't know either of their birthdays, just that they were born in 1879 and 1922 respectively. Also in the case of Barbara Poe Levee I have no information about her work as an artist or her exhibitions between 1945 and 2002.
Any information would be very welcome.
And a Very Happy 2014 to everyone!
Friday, 20 December 2013
Gretchen Corazzo celebrates her Centenary on 18 December 2013 - She is number twenty-five of the 31 Women
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
|Anne Harvey, photo by Brancusi|
Anne was born into a wealthy, educated and unconventional family, she and her brother Jason were sent to progressive schools in the USA. Harry Harvey, their father was an advertising executive and author. He wrote a biography of Debussy, which was published in 1948. Their mother, Dorothy Dudley Harvey was a writer and poet and one of the four famous Dudley sisters, she published a biography of American novelist Theodore Dreisner in 1932.
Saturday, 16 November 2013
Jacqueline became involved in the surrealist dream in which her creativity became immersed, almost drowned, for a number of years. She experimented with automatism and began painting surreal dream-scapes. Her work appeared in surrealist exhibitions between 1934 and 1948, but like the other women associated with surrealism, her art was not taken very seriously. However she created imaginative and very sophisticated surrealist drawings, collages and objects which were greeted with enthusiasm by the men and exhibited alongside their work.
Sunday, 10 November 2013
The main characters in Joe Dunthorne's second novel are teenager Kate and her 11 year old brother Albert. Their father, Don is the patriarch of the commune at Blaen-y-Llyn and thinks it's all about him. He's wrong of course, but patriarchs generally are.
Kate drops out of the commune to go to school, her sights set on Cambridge, via a sojourn in the suburbs with a boyfriend who ultimately proves boring. Albert is furious at his sister's desertion and prepares for the coming apocalypse, which nobody else believes in, not even his faithful little acolyte Isaac. Freya, their mother, decides to leave Don and goes to live alone in the woods, in a geodesic dome abandoned by Patrick.
Patrick and Janet are the only other founder members of the commune still there... they are not a couple... The newer arrivals, known as the wwoofers, are few in number; they come and go and are generally lacking commitment, never mind finance. Patrick is the oldest communard, but he drops out too after an excess of hand-crafted substances. This probably seals the commune's fate as, unbeknown to everyone except Don, Patrick has been funding Blaen-y-Llyn for years.
I've tried writing about people living in a commune and they always turn out more dysfunctional than I expected. I can't say that Joe Dunthorne had the same problem with this book, because his cast in Wild Abandon are obviously intended to be dysfunctional from the start. I just wonder if anyone has ever written a novel about a functional commune.
Anyway, Wild Abandon is full of funny set pieces and apt descriptions. It's engagingly written and a very entertaining read. I absolutely loved the (maybe) apocalyptic and certainly orgiastic ending. This would make a great film, provided no Americans get their hands on it - they don't know where Wales is.
Monday, 4 November 2013
Milena Pavlović Barili was one of the European artists who moved to the USA during the Second World War. She was talented, imaginative and committed to her painting, sometimes to the point of obsession. Despite constant travelling, she produced 400 known works in a career of only eighteen years, while also working as a designer for Vogue, Harpers and other up market magazines. Although her exhibited work was often well received, she never became popular in her lifetime and her associations within the art community are not well documented. However she can’t be accurately described as a forgotten artist; she is remembered and well loved in her home country, Serbia, where a museum is dedicated to her art.
Milena was an only child born in Pozarevac, Yugoslavia. She was an aristocrat of sorts, a distant cousin of King Peter II of Yugoslavia though her parents were not hugely wealthy. She actually spent part of her childhood in the royal palace in Belgrade, where her mother Danica worked. Danica was a pianist and music teacher, her Italian husband, Milena's father was composer Bruno Barili, from Parma in Italy. Milena's parents seldom lived together. Bruno was an influential businessman and intellectual, a music critic, poet and founder of the literary journal, La Ronda. Music played a major part in Milena’s life, her friends were musicians and Milena herself received some training as a singer, though she never sang professionally.
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
Monday, 28 October 2013
The Book of Illusions is the story of academic David Zimmer and his desperate interest in the work of Hugo Mann, an obscure silent movie actor. Zimmer's interest is desperate because researching and writing a book about Mann is a distraction from the tragedy which has overtaken his own life.
The story of Hector Mann, his last iconic movies and his mysterious disappearance is told with a wonderfully engaging attention to detail and feels for much of the 321 pages to be the main thrust of the book, with David Zimmer's own story relegated to a thin thread. This is delicately done and must be deliberate, from a writer of Auster's ability. It works beautifully, depicting Zimmer's need to escape from his depression into the mystery of another.
Although the book ends with more tragedy, we are left with the feeling that Zimmer has gained a little hope, which will enable him to go on.
I won't go into more detail, I wouldn't do the book justice. I'll just say it's not heavy going either despite the plunge into fictional research. Although the story is sorrowful it has also given me hope, because I can see that my creativity works in something of the same way as Auster's.
I too use this technique, as described by one of my tutors at the University of Leeds. To create drama and empathy in your writing, take your main character and chase them up a proverbial tree, then throw stones at them. I then go one step further and chop the tree down.
It certainly works for Paul Auster in The Book of Illusions. I just urge people to read this compulsive book.
Monday, 7 October 2013
|Meret Oppenheim in a still from|
Dejuner en Fourrure was loaned to Peggy Guggenheim for the Exhibition of 31 Women in 1943. Méret Oppenheim had no say in the matter, she was on the other side of the Atlantic, in her native Switzerland. She never agreed to participate in any exclusively female exhibition and even refused to condone the reproduction of her work in books about women artists. This wasn't because she felt that the battle for women's liberation was unnecessary. Méret was a feminist and the granddaughter of suffragette Lisa Wenger-Rutz, who'd been active in the Swiss League for Women's Rights and encouraged radical thinking in her daughters and granddaughters.
Méret said in a letter to her sister Kristen, when she was asked to take part in an all woman exhibition in Los Angeles, that she was concerned about the possible ghettoisation of art by women. She strongly believed that the creation of art had nothing to do with one's gender, but was a product of both the male and female sides of the artist's psyche.
Meret Oppenheim’s oeuvre is immensely varied, due to her penchant for experimentation. Although when pressed she called herself a painter, she seldom treated painting as any more important than other creative techniques. She absolutely considered art to be an act of creation with a naturally inspired spiritual element, not merely self expression. Her drawings are exceptionally confident, free and expressive. She crossed the boundaries between styles and genres, between fine art and design and between two and three dimensions, to create a body of work that might be abstract, surreal, symbolist, conceptual and/or expressionist, defying easy classification with confidence and élan.
Meret Elisabeth Oppenheim was born on 6 October 1913 in Charlottenberg, Berlin. Her father Erich Alphons Oppenheim was a German doctor, but in 1914 he was called up into the German Army. For safety, her Swiss mother Eva Wenger moved with her children back to her own parents’ home in Switzerland.
Thursday, 3 October 2013
I acknowledge I have missed out some important artists. They will appear next year on their birthdays so, amongst others, you can look forward to the glorious Leonor Fini and the redoubtable Louise Nevelson
Nevelson was incidentally the first of the 31 Women whom I heard of, when I was studying the foundation course at Maidstone College of Art in the year dot. I am so much in awe of her powerful creativity and determination that, while the research is un-troubling, I've found her biography very hard to write, but it will happen.
In the mean time, the wonderful Meret Oppenheim will be along in a couple of days and there will, hopefully, be another three before the end of this year.
Friday, 20 September 2013
Thursday, 29 August 2013
Xenia Andreyevna Kashevaroff Cage is not an forgotten artist, she is an unknown artist. She had a brief window of recognition from 1943 to 1945, though she was highly creative throughout her lifetime; she was a painter, sculptor, musician, designer, book binder, craft worker and conservator. She is one of those talented and versatile women who are routinely ignored, their careers over-shadowed by famous male partners. In Xenia’s case this was composer and writer John Cage, who was as revolutionary in the field of modern music as Marcel Duchamp had been in modern art. Xenia’s contribution in both fields has vanished during the creation of the John Cage mythology.
John and Xenia were both active participants in a radical cultural scene in the USA during the 1930’s and 1940’s, but Xenia’s participation in the world of modern music is still largely un-researched and the only significant acknowledgement of her contribution to modern art came in 2005.
The full extent of Xenia Kashevaroff Cage’s career as a visual artist remains obscure, her own art works have proved very hard to trace. She is in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, but only as the subject in photographs by Edward Weston. One small painting by Xenia is in a public collection in her home state Alaska, any other works which survive are either in private hands or possibly attributed to someone else as, like many among the 31 Women, Xenia often collaborated with others. In her case these included artists Wolfgang Paalen, Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell, dancers and choreographers Jean Erdman and Merce Cunningham, as well as John Cage and other musicians.
Xenia Cage was described by Penelope Rosemont as being on the ‘cutting edge of surrealism in sculpture’. There is no record of what became of the abstract mobile that Xenia showed at the Exhibition of 31 Women, it was an elegant, fragile thing made from balsa wood and rice paper strung on slender wires. The first recorded public view of one of her mobiles was on 14 May 1941, when the Cage Percussion Players performed in San Francisco. Xenia decorated the performance space with a large balsa wood and rice paper mobile beneath which the musicians, including Xenia herself, performed - the movement and shadows cast by the mobile were an intrinsic part of the show. It's probable that Xenia was creating mobiles before this time, but none are known to have survived, even photographs are scarce.
Saturday, 24 August 2013
Artist and poet Dorothea Tanning is one of those amongst the 31 Women who can't accurately be described as a forgotten artist. A New York Times review in 1995 described her as, ...A painter who has become known in this country for not being better known.* Her surrealist work was first discovered in New York in the 1940's, though she had her first exhibition in 1934, in New Orleans. However she wasn't more widely known at that stage.
|Dorothea Tanning on poets.org|
She developed something of an international presence in the 1950's after she moved to France, where she lived and exhibited widely and was accepted as a European surrealist, though in the shadow of her husband, Max Ernst. She returned to the US in 1980 and was almost seen as a European import, having to re-establish herself. Though her art began to move on from straight surrealism during the 1950's, it was her imaginative surrealist works which made her name and which she is best known for. She has been accepted as an important American artist and today her work can be seen in thirty-five public collections throughout the USA as well as nine more in Europe.
Dorothea Tanning discovered the route into her own creativity via an exhibition of Surrealist art. In 1936 she had just moved to New York, with an ambition to be a successful painter, but was forced to earn her living as a waitress and catalogue illustrator. She was only vaguely aware of Surrealism before she visited Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, Alfred Barr’s momentous show at the new Museum of Modern Art. The work that the 26 year old painter saw there was a revelation to her, for the first time she found something matching her own visions. She had drawn and painted from a very young age and as a child created a surrealist image without any prior knowledge, when she painted a nude with leaves for hair, to the horror of her Lutheran parents. Whether they were more horrified by the leaves or the nudity is not entirely clear.
Monday, 19 August 2013
This is one of Pegeen’s tragedies, her work is only ever mentioned in relation to Peggy Guggenheim, although she tried all her adult life to break the ties that held her to her mother’s fame, fortune and personality, with only partial success. On first viewing, her paintings appear cheerful, colourful, decorative and innocent. Their naiveté hides a darker, frequently troubled life which those who knew her are able to read as an undercurrent in her work, though this is not always especially visible to outsiders. Her doll like depictions of women, usually bare-breasted and some as self-portraits, could be indications of the powerlessness she felt about aspects of her life.
The painting of Pegeen's shown at the 1943 Exhibition of 31 Women, Joie De Vivre, although painted when Pegeen was only eighteen, was not her first exhibited work. In 1938 her drawings had been shown at an exhibition of children’s art at her mother’s Guggenheim Jeune gallery in London. This copied an idea from the French Surrealists, who had a fascination with the ‘innocent’ art of childhood. Pegeen was in good company, work by a very young Lucien Freud was also included in the show. Buyers included English surrealist Roland Penrose and Belgian surrealist E.L.T. Mesens and all Pegeen Vail’s pictures were sold, at least according to her mother.
Thursday, 15 August 2013
|I Rice Pereira in 1938, when she |
was one of the WPA artists chose
for the 1939 World's Fair.
Photograph by Cyril Mipaas.
The issue of her age was another matter; she took off five years and was included in both of Peggy Guggenheim’s Spring Salons for Young Artists in 1943 and 1944 when she was already above the age limit of forty. Guggenheim’s records list her as being only 36 at the time of the 1944 spring show.
Monday, 5 August 2013
|Hedda Sterne in 1977|
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
Thursday, 11 July 2013
the Dada Baroness, Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven; the 31 Women number fifteen - her birthday is 12 July
By the time penniless Mrs Elsa Grove, thirty-eight, arrived in New York City in 1912, she had already had two creative husbands, numerous artistic lovers and a varied career in every imaginable field of the arts – actress, author, dancer, designer, model, painter, poet - she had done them all and been taken seriously in none. With this experience, a highly unconventional imagination and a confrontational spirit, Elsa’s life contained all the ingredients for a creative explosion. It took one more failed marriage, to the exiled and penniless Baron Leopold Friedrich von Freytag-Loringhoven, who fled after less than a year, to light the fuse.
After that, for sixteen years nothing stopped her, not rejection, incarceration, depression, permanent poverty and occasional homelessness. She became a consummate pilferer, liberating items to use in the creation of her totally individual art, as well as hoarding random objects she found on the street. She began creating Dada objects, poetry and performance at a time when Dada was barely known in Zurich, never mind New York.
Friday, 5 July 2013
In the twentieth century, most tomes which purported to give an overview of Fine Art mentioned very few women artists and Frida appeared as an aside to her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, if she appeared her at all. Even books on Surrealism, the movement she was closely associated with, sometimes fail to mention her. Rivera himself admired and encouraged Kahlo’s painting, saying more than once that she was a better painter than him, but neither was in any doubt that Rivera’s work had the renown and brought home the cash.
Sunday, 30 June 2013
I completed and sent off a short screenplay about civilian life during WWI, it's based on the diaries of a woman whose brother was a conscientious objector. This is part of the 'Unheard Voices' project being run by Jan Perry in conjunction with the University of Leeds, to commemorate the centenary of the war. If my screenplay is one of those selected, I hope it will be filmed in the autumn.
I wrote and sent off an article about Art Deco in relation to buildings and ships, which will be published in the summer edition of QS Eye magazine.
I extracted from my reams of research two pared-down artists' biographies - Meraud Guevara and Kay Sage - which I published here on this blog.
I had an idea for a new play - it's about a tramp who remembers he was once a musician - and I've written the opening scene, with dialogue and stage directions.
Finally out of the slough of despond - cheers!
Friday, 28 June 2013
The career of Kay Sage demonstrates the near impossibility, for any woman painter before the 1970s, of being acknowledged as a significant artist in her own right. This was even though she was part of the Surrealist movement, which was ostensibly enthusiastic about female involvement. Her paintings are true surrealist landscapes, emerging from deep in her psyche, painted with precision and secret desperation. They have been compared with the work of Yves Tanguy or Giorgio de Chirico and are often dismissed as merely derivative, which is totally undeserved.
Sunday, 23 June 2013
By birth Meraud, whose name is Welsh, was part of a wealthy social elite. She was born Meraud Michael Guinness in London, into the hugely wealthy Guinness family. This society, including her own father, couldn’t comprehend a well-bred women, whose dismissal of correct forms of behaviour was as extreme as Meraud’s became.
Friday, 14 June 2013
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
|Djuna Barnes in 1921|
Monday, 3 June 2013
Monday, 27 May 2013
Novel Extract - Tong Street Blues - chapter 38 of 'The Other Elephant' - set in London in the 1970's
Thursday, 9 May 2013
|Suzy Frelinghuysen in her studio|
Friday, 19 April 2013
The eternal drone of a thousand hives of bees
Ano Vouves the world’s oldest olive tree
|The Cretan countryside is far older than the ruins of Knossos|
Sunday, 14 April 2013
Tuesday, 9 April 2013
Sonja Sekula had a significant career for eighteen years and it ought to be difficult to call her a forgotten artist. She was prolific and in her short career her work appeared in 18 solo and 36 group exhibitions, with at least another 30 since her death, mainly in Switzerland. Unfortunately she suffered from mental illness and could not maintain a consistent momentum. Betty Parsons, the New York dealer who promoted her work from 1948, dropped her in 1960.
|Sonja Sekula in 1945|
Friday, 5 April 2013
She eventually persuaded her reluctant father to let her study art in London, his price was to force her to ‘come out’ as a debutante in 1935. Leonora was unimpressed at meeting the king and hated the frock she had to wear for her coming out ball. The occasion prompted her to write a story in which her place was taken by a smelly hyena, who had just eaten Leonora’s maid and wore the maid’s face to attend the ball. Everybody was too ‘polite’ to comment, until the hyena ate the face and escaped through an open window.
Leonora studied at Chlesea Art School and then under painter Amedee Ozenfant, who had set up a small school. She said that Ozenfant was the first person to not denigrate her need to be an artist and he taught her rigour in her work. Eventually she ran away to be an artist in Paris and lived with surrealist painter Max Ernst. Beginning her artistic life as a surrealist, she was able to let go of her prolific imagination and with it she ran much further than most of her fellow surrealists, whose work is often mundane by comparison. Some of her early paintings and stories were full of her anger towards her father and the English establishment.
During this period, Leonora formed strong friendships with the other surrealist women including Eileen Agar, Nush Eulard, Leonor Fini, Jacqueline Lamba, Lee Miller, Meret Oppenheim and Dora Maar. These women are now considered a surrealist group in their own right, apart from the men, though in her rebellious fashion Carrington declared, “I was never a Surrealist, I was just with Max”.
Thursday, 28 March 2013
Thursday, 21 March 2013
|Eyre de Lanux by Carl Van Vechten|
Eyre de Lanux had attended the Art Students League in New York City from 1912-1915. She seemed destined for the comfortable, metropolitan life of a wealthy amateur painter and frequenter of New York salons, but it was wartime and she was a modern woman so she found herself a job, working for the Foreign Press Bureau. She was in some ways a twentieth century renaissance woman, with diverse talents including writing, illustration and fashion as well as painting and design. She first exhibited her painting and drawing in 1917, but by the late 1920’s she was better known as a designer of soft furnishings and one-off pieces of high quality modernist furniture, some created in close collaboration with English designer Evelyn Wyld, with whom she set up a workshop.